Andrew Barnicle, the major creative force behind the transformation of the Laguna Playhouse from a decidedly middle-of-the-road community theater into a major force in American theater, is stepping down from his post as artistic director, the playhouse announced on Friday.
In a press release, Henry Mayhew, the Chairman of the Board of the Laguna Playhouse, said that he accepted Barnicle's resignation today in order for Barnicle to "pursue outside directing and other creative opportunities."
"Andy has had a stellar two-decade career here, during which he produced 120 shows, including 14 world premieres, eight U.S. premiers and 24 West Coast premieers" Mayhew said in the press releasse. "He has also directed 39 productions for the Playhouse. We are grateful for his years of leadership and expect more great theater from him as he moves on to new creative opportunities."
Like all professional theaters, the Laguna Playhouse has been buffeted by the past two years of economic turbulence. It's been forced to curtail its number of original productions shorten its runs and take other cost-savings measures. Barnicle, who has long strived to balance the needs of the Playhouse's older, more well-heeled South Orange County audience base with his own artistic sensibilities, leaves at a time of great uncertainty for all professional theaters.
"It has been my pleasure serving as Artistic Director of the Laguna Playouse during a very creative period," Barnicle said in the press release. "I will continue as a consultant with the Playhouse while Managing Director Karen Wood and the Board move through this year of transition. We'll continue to work together to make sure the season is successful for all, and the transition smooth. I am looking forward to staying involved for the 90th Anniversary celebration, as well as directing the final play of this season, Private Lives.
"As we all know, the past few years have proved challenging for non-profit arts organizations across the nation. The Laguna Playhouse is among those that have been agile and fortunate to navigate those rough waters. The playhouse is securely set in its 90th Anniversary Season, so I feel I am able to step away at this point and shift my focus to directing and other creative projects."
Barnicle joined the Laguna Playhouse as Artistic Director in 1991. While he was involved in every artistic direction, large and small in that tenure, his greatest legacy were the plays he directed. Absolutely one of the finest directors in Southern California, Barnicle's resume included some of the finest shows to play on local stages the last two decades. He directed great productions of great plays, such as Enemy of the People and American Buffalo, but he was also adept at crafting quite effective productions of plays that didn't carry as much dramatic heft, including Communicating Doors. Who's Hot, Who's Not, Tabletop, Bright Ideas and many more.
Time will tell if Barnicle will stick around Southern California or branch out elsewhere. But this is much is true: He was one of the most interesting personalities, and engaging talents, I've dealt with in my 14-year tenure of writing about theater for OC Weekly. He was opinionated, outspoken and never blew smoke up a reporter's ass. Hopefully, he'll be sticking around in some capacity; if he doesn't, his talent and personality will be sorely missed.
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